International Basketball Not The Same As American Game

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BRIAN MAHONEY
Displayed with permission from The Washington Times

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – The ball was bouncing away, threatening New Zealand’s last-chance possession, though if a player could just dive on the floor and corral it, any NBA fan would know what to do.

CALL TIMEOUT!

Nope. Couldn’t.

That’s not allowed in the international game.

It is acceptable for trying to win to be secondary to losing close – but better not be too blatant if your priority isn’t winning at all.

Turkey trailed by six in the final minute of another contest, and when its opponent inbounded the ball, surely the Turkish bench would scream out the obvious instruction.

FOUL!

Nope. Wouldn’t.

Welcome to basketball, international style. Same name, not quite the same game as in America. Not in the way the sport is played, officiated, or strategized.

“It’s similar, but in anything, you take something from the East Coast to the West Coast in the United States, it’s a little bit different,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Being a successful coach in international tournaments requires more than just a good playbook. Sometimes it takes a good calculator.

Mike Fratello learned that the hard way.

In his first tournament coaching Ukraine in 2011, his team was eliminated by a point differential tiebreaker. So the longtime NBA coach wasn’t particularly surprised when Turkey opted not to foul in the last 30 seconds of its first-round matchup with the Ukrainians, settling for a six-point loss rather than try to prolong the game and risk losing by eight.

“We know from our first year that we did not advance to the next round because of point differential,” Fratello said. “We were tied with two other teams, Georgia, ourselves and Bulgaria, the three of us tied with 2-3 records. Georgia moved on because of point differential. So it’s huge here, it really is.”

Unfortunately for the TV analyst known as the “Czar of the Telestrator,” Fratello still isn’t a math major. His squad was again ousted on point differential even more painfully, falling short by one point.

Lose close, lose big, whatever. Sometimes, all that matters is losing.

Teams seem more than willing to tank games – to purposely lose – for what coaches feel would be a more favorable matchup.

Spain appeared to do it against Brazil in the 2012 Olympics, moving the Spanish to the other half of the bracket so they didn’t get the Americans until the gold-medal game.

And that seemed the mission for Australia in its final game of group play against Angola, when the Australians rested regulars, played defense with the intensity of a Spanish siesta, and blew a big lead in falling 91-83. That dropped them out of position to face the U.S. until the semifinals, with an intent that looked so obvious that FIBA has launched an investigation.

When it happened, Slovenia’s Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns blasted them on Twitter. But despite his anger, the Slovenians eventually blamed themselves for not double-checking their path and their math.

“Like I said, this is our fault. Other team, they calculate, we didn’t,” said Dragic’s brother, Zoran.

As for the game itself, there are other differences:

- The FIBA version is shorter than the NBA’s by eight minutes, with a closer 3-point line and a different ball.

- Only coaches can call timeouts – U.S. guard Kyrie Irving forgot that in an earlier game – and only when the ball isn’t live, negating the ability to regroup if a possession is going poorly.

- Traveling calls. Americans get whistled for the violation plenty in international competition, either because they’re too slow to adapt to the way referees see it, or too quick for the officials to think their moves are legal.

Some changes have been made to bring the games together – the FIBA key that was formerly a trapezoid is now also rectangular. NBA president Rod Thorn said there have been discussions for decades about how to adopt a universal set of rules, like soccer.

“What we found over the course of time, even though we’ve still gotten a lot closer, is that it was so hard for them to change certain things because of all the different federations … that they have,” Thorn said. “They’ve been doing things a certain way for so long they didn’t want to change, and it was just much more difficult – a lot of their federations had no money, couldn’t institute changes that cost anything.”

NBA owners have resisted some change, too.

One of the most notable rules they oppose is the international game allows defensive players to swipe the ball off the rim, which in America is basket interference. Thorn said the 3-point arc was moved in at one point, but league officials felt it was too close.

Still, the games are much more similar than when NBA teams competed in the former McDonald’s Open tournaments in the late 1980s. The games were so different that Thorn said they were officiated under a mixture of rules, rather than require the international clubs to learn the NBA’s illegal defense rules.

He represents the U.S. on a committee that meets annually with FIBA rules officials to discuss further changes to the game. But there may never be a uniform one.

“I don’t know if it’ll get to be the same,” Thorn said, “but I think it’ll continue to get closer.”

Bruce Levenson Will Sell Atlanta Hawks

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By Chris Vivlamore
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson announced Sunday that he will sell his controlling interest in the team.

Levenson cited an “inappropriate and offensive” e-mail he sent two years ago in the abrupt announcement.

“If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be,” Levenson said in a statement released by the team. “I’m angry at myself, too. It was inflammatory nonsense. We all may have subtle biases and preconceptions when it comes to race, but my role as a leader is to challenge them, not to validate or accommodate those who might hold them.

“I have said repeatedly that the NBA should have zero tolerance for racism, and I strongly believe that to be true. That is why I voluntarily reported my inappropriate e-mail to the NBA.

“After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise.”

According to Levenson, Hawks CEO and part-owner Steve Koonin will oversee all team operations during the sale process.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a release Sunday that Levenson informed him of his decision Saturday night.

“Following Bruce Levenson notifying the league office this July of his August 2012 email, the NBA commenced an independent investigation regarding the circumstances of Mr. Levenson’s comments,” Silver said in his statement.

“Prior to the completion of the investigation, Mr. Levenson notified me last evening that he had decided to sell his controlling interest in the Atlanta Hawks. As Mr. Levenson acknowledged, the views he expressed are entirely unacceptable and are in stark contrast to the core principles of the National Basketball Association. He shared with me how truly remorseful he is for using those hurtful words and how apologetic he is to the entire NBA family – fans, players, team employees, business partners and fellow team owners – for having diverted attention away from our game.

I commend Mr. Levenson for self-reporting to the league office, for being fully cooperative with the league and its independent investigator, and for putting the best interests of the Hawks, the Atlanta community, and the NBA first.”

Greg Monroe Signs Qualifying Offer With Detroit Pistons

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Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

The Detroit Pistons’ worst nightmare this summer came to fruition Friday.

Forward Greg Monroe, a restricted free agent, signed a one-year, $5.5-million qualifying offer, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to the Free Press. The person requested anonymity because the deal had not been announced by the Pistons or Monroe’s agent.

By signing the offer, Monroe’s days with the Pistons appear to be numbered. He has gambled millions in guaranteed salary so that he can become an unrestricted free agent next July.

The news was first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, citing unnamed league sources.

Monroe and the Pistons couldn’t agree to a long-term contract extension during the summer or work out a sign-and-trade agreement with another team.

The Pistons moved from their initial five-year, $60-million offer to one that was slightly better on a per-year basis than the four-year, $54-million contract forward Josh Smith signed last summer.

New president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy repeatedly had said that signing Monroe to a long-term deal was his No. 1 priority of the off-season.

The Pistons, however, were unwilling to offer Monroe a maximum contract, even though they were willing to make him their highest-paid player.

Monroe had until Oct. 1 to accept the qualifying offer, at a figure set by NBA rules.

By turning down guaranteed millions, Monroe is taking the chance he will not get hurt this season and his play will do nothing to decrease his long-term value.

Monroe’s decision also hampers the Pistons’ ability to trade him. He has veto power over any trade, and if he is traded, he would lose his Larry Bird rights, an exemption that allows teams to exceed the salary cap when signing their own players.

Monroe, 24, was drafted by the Pistons with the No. 7 pick out of Georgetown in 2010. He has averaged 14 points and nine rebounds in four seasons.

Last season, he averaged 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds, playing in all 82 games. But it was a far from smooth season because the Pistons failed to mesh playing big men Monroe, Smith and center Andre Drummond at the same time.

Long Journey Leads McGhee Back To Norman

JOHN SHINN
Displayed with permission from The Washington Times

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Aaron McGhee hadn’t seen Lloyd Noble Center until this month since he cleaned out his locker in the spring of 2002. The arena hasn’t changed much, but the area around it has transformed in the 12 and a half years since.

“Campus, everything around it, even just coming here from Oklahoma City, to see the development all around,” McGhee told The Norman Transcript. “It’s a lot different around here.”

Oklahoma opens its arms to all former players when it holds the Legends Alumni Weekend. McGhee was one of the featured honorees as the University of Oklahoma celebrated all 1,000-point scorers in the program’s history.

McGhee wished he’d come back sooner. His home is in Frisco, Texas. It’s only a three-hour drive. But most of the time since McGhee left school has been spent, literally, a world way.

Everyone who dreams of playing professional basketball hopes to do so in the NBA. However, only a select few get to live it.

Most do what McGhee’s done. Apply for a passport, pack the bags and head overseas.

He’s made a living playing professional basketball for 12 years. It’s taken him to Russia, Spain, South Korea, Puerto Rico, China, Philippines, Israel and Ukraine.

“I never would’ve thought I would’ve seen half the things I’ve seen traveling the world,” McGhee said. “It’s been amazing. I’ve been truly blessed.”

It took a while for the appreciative feelings to set in.

McGhee figured he was destined for a career in the NBA. That thought was validated when a couple months after aiding the Sooners’ Final Four run, he was named MVP of the 2002 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. At the time, it was the NBA’s combine.

But the 6-foot-7 forward never found his way onto a NBA roster. Some bitterness came with the slight.

“It bothered me for a while,” McGhee said. “Not getting a fair crack – I felt – to get into the NBA, yeah, it bothered me a little bit. But I learned to let it go.”

He hasn’t signed with a team for this coming season. At 35 years old, the option to retire looms. It was obvious at an alumni game this month at Lloyd Noble Center that talent is still there.

McGhee buried 15 footers at the same rate he did in his final University of Oklahoma game in 2002.

It’s easy to tell at the alumni game which players are still active and which ones are making a living doing something else.

Former University of Oklahoma players and 1,000-point scorers Tony Crocker and Cade Davis have followed McGhee’s path.

Both were headed out of Norman this month to begin voyages to faraway lands. Crocker is off to Israel. Davis is bound for Greece to play for the same team Crocker was with last year.

“Yeah, Cade asked me all about the team and money and the league,” Crocker said. “He’ll have fun. He’ll like it. It’s in a good part of Athens. He’ll love it.”

They’re both getting the same experience as McGhee. Getting paid to play the game they love and seeing the world.

It requires patience and an adventurous spirit.

“It’s a different road because you do bounce around from place to place. You never know how the team will fare and where you’ll wind up the next season,” Davis said. “It’s a waiting game. You have to wait for the next opportunity to present itself.”

Those opportunities have limited their chances to return to Norman. But the alumni weekend is always going to be there when the basketball adventures end.

Cavaliers Introduce Kevin Love




Kevin Love was introduced as the newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers at a press conference in Cleveland on Tuesday. Love was acquired in a three-team deal with the Timberwolves and 76ers.